Prostrated before the altar with her white dress, Lara Montoya pictured the saints in heaven rejoicing at this long-awaited moment. It was nothing like she had so often pictured in her mind – there was no cathedral, no bishop and no family members. Even then, nothing would rob her of the joy of finally fulfilling her deepest desire: giving herself entirely to Christ.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Montoya made her perpetual profession in a humble chapel located in a small town in Peru on Pentecost Sunday, surrounded by just a few community sisters.
Montoya – who, during her period of formation in the Marian Community of Reconciliation, spent 10 years in Denver serving in several ministries including Christ in the City and El Pueblo Católico – always imagined her profession at a church like Denver’s Cathedral Basilica, surrounded by family and friends in a Mass celebrated by a bishop, because such an important day needed a great preparation. But God had other plans. He decided to lead her down an unusual path of surrender that would prepare her for that day and show her how God always fulfills his promises.
The first surrender came only three weeks before the scheduled date of the ceremony. “My heart froze,” said Montoya, when she heard that Peru had ordered a lockdown due to the coronavirus. “Something I always asked God was for my parents to be present, and it seemed that wouldn’t be possible.”
A few days later, Peru ordered the closing of airports, which confirmed her fear. Soon she was also told she could only choose 20 people to attend. Thus, she had to surrender the desire of having many of her loved ones present at her profession.
While it pained her to postpone the long-desired ceremony, she was relieved when it was finally rescheduled – her parents still had a chance to attend after all. However, that hope was short-lived as the situation worsened, and the second date was not postponed. Eventually she made her perpetual profession in the humble church located in the town that housed the community, without her family, friends and a bishop. This was the third surrender Jesus asked of her.
“When this happened, I felt so alone and I said, ‘Lord, what do you want from me? Why have you allowed this to be postponed for so long? What are you doing in my heart?’” Montoya said.
At that moment, she remembered a dream she had years ago when she was first praying about requesting admittance to perpetual profession. This prophetic dream would help her understand God’s Providence in all these events.
I was sadly sitting in a corner of this simple church when the Lord drew near me and tenderly asked me, ‘Lara, why are you so sad?’ I started whining: ‘Look at this simple church, I have no dress, there is no bishop, no one showed.’ So, he looked at me and said something that has pierced my soul to this day: ‘Why are you doing this, for all these things or for me?’”
“I dreamed I was writing the letter of request to my superior, and she told me, ‘You are accepted, but you must do it in three days.’ And I said, ‘What do I do now!’ I had no church, no dress, no ring, nothing,” Lara remembered. So, she had to find another priest and do it in her native town’s humble church. The worst part was that no one showed; after she made her profession, there was no one to congratulate her.
“I was sadly sitting in a corner of this simple church when the Lord drew near me and tenderly asked me, ‘Lara, why are you so sad?’ I started whining: ‘Look at this simple church, I have no dress, there is no bishop, no one showed,’” she recounted. “So, he looked at me and said something that has pierced my soul to this day: ‘Why are you doing this, for all these things or for me?’”
When Lara woke up, she knew she wasn’t ready to make her perpetual profession. “Those things still mattered too much to me,” she said. “And I’ve always been afraid of not giving Jesus a pure heart.” But she never imagined that this dream in many ways would become a reality. In the long years that followed, God would lead her through a path of suffering due to illness, Church scandals, and confusion, which she described as a process of “surrender after surrender.” This path would leave her with nothing other than the most profound and essential part: her desire to unite herself to Jesus.
“The heart is like an onion: the more you peel it, the more you discover the divine footprints in your soul. The Lord made me peel the onion,” she said with a smile. “That is how I was only left with the most important part.”
And this fact turned into immense joy, as Montoya’s smile testified on the day of her perpetual profession.
“Everything became clear on the day of my profession. The light of the Holy Spirit has allowed me to see my vocational journey under a new light,” she said. “On that day, I understood the great ‘why’: why he had made me wait for so long, not so much for the length of time, but because during that time everything was put to the test.
“And I reached this conclusion: the joy I felt on that day was so deep and great that I wouldn’t have experienced it in that way if I had not previously tasted the most bitter edges of my vocation.”
For this reason, she was able to say at the end of her profession: “I feel that today the Lord has fulfilled all his promises… And he has fulfilled mine in a very mysterious way.”
Her parents, family and friends weren’t there, but they were still able to watch the ceremony “from the first row” with more than a thousand people from around the world who joined the livestream.
She said a few words to the English speakers watching from Denver: “All of you are the fulfillment of the promises of the Lord,” she said, adding that in all the relationships she made in Denver, she gained “fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers.”
“Lord, how much I desire to be an open book, a book that sings your wonders, a book at the disposal of others,” Montoya concluded, referring to the story of her life. “That whoever wishes may draw near to read your wonders and sing you songs of praise to you, because your mercy is great.”
In this way, with the longing to unite herself completely to Christ at the end of this life, Montoya realized that amid so many surrenders, God had transformed her for that day of her profession, in which the most essential part was present: Jesus himself and her ardent desire to fully surrender everything to him.